Melanocytes determine angiogenesis gene expression across human tissues

Shirly Freilikhman, Marianna Halasi, Ally Eran, Irit Adini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Several angiogenesis-dependent diseases, including age-related macular degeneration and infantile hemangioma, display differential prevalence among Black, as compared to White individuals. Although socioeconomic status and genetic architecture have been suggested as explaining these differences, we have recently shown that pigment production per se might be involved. For example, we have shown that the extracellular protein fibromodulin is a pro-angiogenic factor highly secreted by melanocytes in White but not Black individuals. Still, additional pigment-dependent angiogenic factors and their molecular mechanisms remain to be identified. Understanding the contribution of pigmentation to angiogenesis in health and disease is essential for precision medicine of angiogenesis-dependent diseases with racial disparity. Toward that goal, we compared the transcriptomes of Black and White individuals in three tissues with angiogenic activity, namely artery, whole blood, and skin. We identified several differentially expressed angiogenesis pathways, including artery morphogenesis, regulation of endothelial cell chemotaxis, and cellular response to vascular endothelial growth factor stimulus. We then demonstrated that the expression of key genes in these pathways is directly modulated by the degree of pigmentation. We further identified the precise pigment production pathway controlling the expression of these genes, namely melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) signaling. These results demonstrate pigment-mediated regulation of angiogenesis-related pathways and their driver genes across human tissues.

Original languageEnglish GB
Article numbere0251121
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5 May
StatePublished - 1 May 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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